According to a sector inquiry, British hospitality companies have lost nearly 200,000 international workers since the end of 2019 as the effects of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic put pressure on the job market.
According to data collected by recruiter Caterer.com, the EU workforce has shrunk the fastest. At the last count, around 172,000 EU citizens were employed in the hospitality industry, down about 41 percent from a pre-pandemic total of nearly 293,000.
The number of international workers from all continents has fallen over the past two years, with around 76,000 workers from abroad outside the EU also leaving the workforce. In total, about 197,000 foreign employees have left the sector since 2019, according to the survey, based on a survey of 250 senior hiring managers in the hospitality industry, conducted in July.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the hospitality sector employs around 7 per cent of the UK workforce. In the past, foreign staff made up more than 40 percent of the hospitality workforce.
No sector has been hit harder by the tight labor market due to the impact of Brexit and the pandemic, with the hospitality industry facing a 7.9 percent vacancy rate, the highest of any industry, according to the ONS.
Caterer.com director Kathy Dyball said the industry was in the midst of an “ongoing and serious labor crisis.” She added that giving cooks access to skilled worker status was a good start, allowing UK companies to sponsor them for a work visa.
“Vacancies are forcing some businesses to shorten opening hours or close all day,” said Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality. The trade association estimates that job openings cost companies £21 billion in unmet demand and lost revenue, and the Treasury about £5 billion in lost tax. “It is vital to the UK economy that we successfully tackle this crisis,” Nicholls added.
A West End restaurateur, who operates a dozen establishments across London, said his wage bill had risen nearly 20 percent in the past year as he struggled to recruit staff.
“The growth in hospitality over the past 30 years has been fueled almost entirely by a non-UK workforce,” he said.
“The effect of Brexit, combined with the pandemic, is that part of the workforce has been removed – and if there is no need to hire staff, the only option is to raise prices or close some businesses,” he said. he. adding that the labor shortage was greatest among front-of-house staff.
About 43 percent of companies surveyed said they had to downsize their operations because of the staff shortage. In the survey, 89 percent said strict immigration rules prevented them from hiring people from abroad. One in four reported more applications from British candidates.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said another solution was to give employers more flexibility over how they spend an industry levy to fund apprenticeships so they can use the money for recruiting and wages.
“We have encouraged the government to introduce more youth mobility visas so that skilled workers can be hired from abroad, but the government should also make it easier to recruit and retain staff more locally,” she added.
A UK government spokesman said: “We want employers to invest in the UK’s domestic workforce over the long term. . . rather than relying on cheap labor from abroad.”
They added that companies can also hire migrant workers who meet “the required English language and salary thresholds and are sponsored by a registered Home Office sponsor”.